Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-08 and AFC East notes this week. It is good to be back on Daylight Savings Time…did you remember to turn your clocks forward last night?
Quick Hitters For the Pats, the Scouting Combine, and the NFL:
Jason McCourty: The Patriots are going to pick up the contract option for the veteran cornerback, which will pay him about $4 million dollars in 2020, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. McCourty had said in early February, “I definitely plan on playing next year. Now he’ll be back with the Patriots, which a tad surprising as with the cap space available, we thought that the team may be tempted to move on.
Devin McCourty: The other half of the McCourty twins is an unrestricted free agent coming off of, arguably his best season. The Patriots move to re-sign Jason could be twofold in the thought process. While he’s been a valuable, versatile presence, his return could be the catalyst in Devin deciding to remain with the Patriots once free agency starts.
Bill Belichick: The Patriots head coach will be honored by his hometown of Annapolis, Maryland on March 14th and be given the Keys to the City by MayorGavin Buckley. Originally, the city of Annapolis had planned on doing this last spring, but then former Heisman Trophy winner and Navy alum Joe Bellino passed away and Belichick, who was close to Bellino, went to the funeral, which happened to be the same day as the ceremony was planned.
The city was understanding and now they’ve rescheduled for the 14th to present Belichick with the key to the city at halftime of the Navy-Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse game next Saturday.
In a released statement, Belichick stated, “I am humbled and honored to be recognized by Mayor Buckley and the City of Annapolis,” he said. “I would like to thank Admiral Buck and Chet Gladchuk for allowing me to receive the key in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. I loved the years I spent growing up in Annapolis and at the Naval Academy and I always look forward to returning. I am proud to be an Annapolitan!”
“If This Is Sunday” – Then Tom Brady must be going to San Francisco, or Tennessee, or Las Vegas…or was it Tampa Bay?
Jalen Hurts – This week on another podcast other than our own, I spoke with Mark Schofield, who is one of the best QB evaluators concerning the draft about Hurts. Schofield writes for too many publications to list them all, but we spoke about Hurts and his potential fit with the Patriots.
He said that if Brady were to return, then the possibility of getting Hurts with one of their mid-round picks would be intriguing. His long throwing motion has been cleaned up and his mechanics looked very good in Indy at the Combine, where he threw very well. Something to remember, after going to Oklahoma last season, Hurts threw for over 3800 yards and 32 touchdowns. He’s an incredible athlete and is a very good runner with the ball in his hands.
His potential to learn under Brady would be a huge factor as well and the Patriots could opt to use him in the meantime much like the Saints use Taysom Hill, which would create matchups and get him some good game-time experience. Just something to consider.
4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. Last week we finally got the band back together as Russ Goldman, who’d been working a schedule that didn’t permit getting together with Derek Havens and myself, was able to rejoin the podcast for the first time in several months.
The Scouting Combine Needs To Return To Daytime, Prime Time? No:
The NFL can take one of the best events of the offseason, the Scouting Combine and turn it into a soup sandwich. In a league that has become obsessed with turning every little thing into “an event”, they’ve kicked the Combine into prime time and tried to bring in the casual fans, most of whom could care less how fast Player A. runs the 3-Cone Drill, or even know what that is. They just want to know who their team is drafting.
The players arrive four, five, and in some cases six hours before they are due to working out and then forced to sit around for a large part of the day waiting for the prime time window to begin. The pace of the workouts seemed off as well. As a result of these long delays, several players suffered muscle pulls and strains. For what?
Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reported that “agents and agencies were protesting the pending change to prime time workouts and threatened to have players sit out Combine workouts. However, now that they’ve experienced the issues that come with these workouts which last until 11 PM, it may be a different story in 2021.”
The Combine, the way it had always been run was just fine the way it was. It didn’t need tweaking and definitely doesn’t need to be a “prime-time event” and judging from what we heard the numbers were, the fans rejected it as well. Some folks who work on Park Avenue couldn’t hit water out of a boat.
Jarrett Stidham A Star QB? His Throwing Guru Believes So:
In case you have either been on Mars or have been unwired for the past few months the Patriots may or may not re-sign Tom Brady this spring…(I know, it is breaking news! More to that below). But regardless of the incessant and increasingly silly rumors of who the Patriots are “all in on” coming into replace him if indeed he does leave, but all of it ignores one key fact.
We’ve been saying since the season ended, whatever the Patriots decide to do begins with how they feel about Jarrett Stidham. They drafted him in the fourth round last year and he’s still quite an unknown quantity. But by now, the coaches must have a feeling on whether he can play at a high level and become a franchise QB. One person who totally believes in Stidham is his throwing coach Jordan Palmer.
Palmer, the younger brother of Carson, has been working with Stidham since he was just 16 years old. Jeff Howe of The Athletic spoke with Palmer and the former NFL player was glowing in his praise for Stidham.
“To be clear, I think he is a star, and he is going to be a big-time franchise quarterback,” Palmer said. “I have felt that way for a couple of years now. I’m totally fine saying that. I don’t care that he went fourth round. I think he is legitimate. He is going to be the leader of New England for a long time, whenever that starts. Go ahead and jump on that bandwagon.”
Palmer and Stidham have been hard at work to improve his velocity, an area that he has to improve upon moving forward. And that comes from fine-tuning his mechanics.
“Because he can spin it as well as anybody in the league, literally from a data perspective,” Palmer said. “The focus for Jarrett was velocity. So he gained 11 percent velocity over two months, and that was almost double what the other guys were. So just by focusing on certain areas, we can make large gains. So with Jarrett, every other week or so, we’re testing that and having him throw from the simulator out on the field, and we’re able to monitor growth and address certain issues.”
“He has had to learn two completely different systems in college and is now learning a third,” Palmer added. “He is playing for the best organization in football and the greatest coach of all time. I would put my money on the guy who gets to play with that guy.”
Stidham is the wildcard in all of this. Regardless of whether Brady decides to stay or go, how they proceed beyond that is directly related to how they feel about their 2nd year QB. Remember, other than mop-up duty against the Jets, we really haven’t seen him play since Game 4 of the preseason. The beat writers got quotes from some of the players saying that he was making some great throws in practice, but then once the season started, their only access was the first 15 minutes or so of practice that is essentially a walk-thru.
Vrabel Facetime, Not a Big Deal…Unless They Did in Foxboro:
Around this time of year, the most overlooked and ridiculous rule in the league centers around the “legal tampering” period. Teams aren’t allowed to contact free agents or their agents and discuss money or contracts until the designated period….right.
Pro Football Talk and Larry Fitzgerald Sr. published a report that the Raiders were prepared to offer Tom Brady a two-year $60 million dollar deal…hmm. Last week, we’ve by now all seen the Facetime video of Titans coach Mike Vrabel chatting up with Tom Brady and Julian Edelman. Normally, during this time of year, a head coach of another team calling a free agent QB that is rumored to be coveted by your organization would send the NFL offices at Park Avenue into a frenzy.
However, Vrabel said that there was no harm, no foul…it was simply old teammates and friends catching up.
“It would be no different than a conversation you would have with two of your (friends) on a weekend,” said Vrabel.
“And listen, my relationship goes back to 2001 with Tom Brady and training camp at Rhode Island (and) Parente’s. We’d go practice, and a bunch of us would go to the bar at Parente’s after practice, and that’s where a lot of those friendships were made. And those friendships aren’t going to stop or not continue to grow and develop now that I’m a head coach and he’s a quarterback with an expiring contract. Those are going to continue on well after he’s done playing — with his family, with my family. “
Vrabel added, “And having the ability to meet Jules and all those players, there’s a special bond that goes on in the locker room, and that’s not going to stop, the same way that Larry Izzo or Tedy Bruschi or Willie McGinest or Wes Welker and Matt Cassel and I will have a relationship.”
That is completely understandable and his explanation makes a lot of sense, because there are times that common sense has to prevail…right? But what if Brady actually DOES sign with Tennessee? Would that conversation be looked at differently in Foxboro then? It won’t in New York, but just imagine if you will (Rod Serling voice) that Bill Belichick got on “MyFace” or “SnapFace” and yukked it up with a big free agent that the Patriots supposedly coveted. Would the non-story remain the same? The league would be on the horn with Ted Wells and trying to grab everyone’s cell phone within a 10-mile radius to Gillette.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills To Target Jadeveon Clowney in FA? A Good Fit:
The Buffalo Bills have a need for a consistent pass rusher in 2020 and they have the cap space to go out and find one. Buffalo has about $80 million in available cap space, although GM Brandon Beane said that the team wouldn’t go on a spending spree like last year, they have the flexibility to target some of the higher-priced talents out there. Enter Clowney from the Seahawks who is a free agent.
Buffalo had a rotation of Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, and free agent Shaq Lawson and they played well. Bringing in a guy like Clowney will add a disruptive edge player who is outstanding against the run. He’d be a really good fit in the Bills defense and with the money available, he could be Buffalo bound if they are interested.
Dolphins QB Fitzpatrick In Favor of CBA Proposal:
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the few players that we’ve seen so far embrace the CBA proposal forwarded by the owners to the Players Association to vote on. Fitzpatrick said he has spent weeks going over the proposed CBA and he agrees with the vast majority of it.
“I can confidently say today that I’m going to vote yes on the CBA proposal. And there’s a long list of reasons why,” Fitzpatrick said in a video he sent to ESPN’s Trey Wingo. “First, when we met with NFLPA leadership during the season we gave them things we wanted to see addressed.”
He said that the points that the Player’s Association brought up were addressed and he was voting yes. Those points included increased minimum salaries, marijuana drug policy changes, increased roster spots, better work conditions and environment, better practice-squad treatment, less hitting in training camp and increased benefits for current and former players.
“For us as players, revenue sharing, getting a larger percentage of the pie, is important but also the overall growth of that pie is important,” he said. “Those two things both happen if we sign this CBA.”
“The possible gains we could make from a work stoppage don’t justify the risk we would undertake in voting this proposal down,” Fitzpatrick said
Jets Quinnen Williams Arrested For Attempting To Bring a Gun on a Plane:
The New York Jets DL Quinnen Williams was arrested at New York’s LaGuardia Airport this week for criminal possession of a weapon and will be arraigned March 25 in Queens County criminal court, according to the DA’s office.
Williams was carrying a Glock 19 handgun in a carry-on bag when he was arrested at the Delta check-in counter at approximately 9:15 p.m. on Thursday night, a Port Authority Police spokesperson said. The gun was licensed in his home state of Alabama, but not in New York, according to police.
He was not, however, carrying any ammunition which would carry a much stiffer sentence if the owner of the weapon is carrying it loaded or has ammunition in close proximity to the weapon. New York has some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
Although the resolution of this legal matter should be over quickly, Williams would still face league discipline for this incident under the personal-conduct policy.
“So, how was your week?”
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